Panhandle Extension educators, specialists recognized for efforts |

Panhandle Extension educators, specialists recognized for efforts

Several Extension educators and specialists at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center have been recognized recently with regional, national or state awards recently for their efforts.

Extension Educator Jackie Guzman has received the 2015 Nebraska Innovative Extension Educator Award for her programming efforts in Scotts Bluff County to bridge cultures, build community, and help at-risk youth fill their personal and professional potential.

Guzman was recognized during the Nebraska Extension Fall Conference recently in Kearney. Since she was hired in 2005 to target the unique needs of underserved clientele in Scotts Buff County, Guzman has helped establish partnerships and collaborations to share services and funds. Her program emphasis is threefold: community outreach, helping to bridge the community and professional development.

According to the nomination, Guzman serves as both a professional and personal role model in Nebraska for her work to engage the underserved audience.

After meeting with Latino community leaders, three areas of concern were identified: childhood obesity, a need for youth and adult leadership opportunities, and maintaining cultural heritage. Guzman and the team helped develop and implement the Lakota Life and Culture Conference, the Food, Fun, and Fitness program, 4-H Photography Heritage Program, People Restoring Involvement Dignity Excellence (PRIDE) 4-H Youth Adult Partnership, Together Everyone Achieves More Success (TEAMS) Program, and the 4-H After-school Mentoring Program. These programs have reached 442 youth, 94 families, 407 adult volunteers, and received $266,000 in grant funds.

From the PRIDE 4-H program, 18 youth attended college and one joined the military. The TEAMS Program graduated its first class in May 2015 with 12 attending college and one joining the military.

Guzman has seen programming opportunities and helped infuse them with multi-cultural opportunities. In partnership with the Panhandle Partnership for Health and Human Services and CAPWN youth programs, she developed a Youth Leadership Curriculum for at-risk youth and a youth worker leadership training program.

She was an active contributor of the Lakota Conference which taught Native American/non-Native community members about the Lakota culture and traditions. She works with the Latinas Unidas, a group of Latina women who meet monthly to learn about leadership and to discuss issues affecting them.

And she created the program “The Mexican People in the Panhandle” which shared the history, motivations and contributions of the group. It sparked other community programs hosted by the Panhandle Research and Extension Center that included stories of the Germans from Russia and the Japanese. These community events allowed stories to be shared through displays of artifacts, demonstrations and public interaction.

Guzman’s connection with the Nebraska Extension Learning Child Team and her multi-cultural focus has been a successful model in reaching and bridging cultural communities.

Other recent recognitions include:

Extension Educator Gary Stone and fellow members of the Upper North Platte River Weed Management Area were recognized Dec. 2 by the Wyoming Stock Growers Association as an “Environmental Stewardship Champion” for the group’s contributions in managing and controlling invasive plants and restoring habitat. The group was recognized at the Winter Roundup Convention in Casper. UNPRWMA was formed in 2007 to include five weed and pest district counties in Wyoming through which the North Platte River flows.

According to the WSGA, the Weed Management Area’s resource stewardship goes “beyond the individual ranch stewardship that meets the criteria for the Leopold Conservation Award. The Upper North Platte River Weed Management Area represents a landscape-scale collaborative effort that involves eight Weed and Pest Control Districts supported by a wide array of agency partners and individual landowners. They truly reflect the Wyoming Way of neighbors helping neighbors.”

Their collaborative efforts include practices that manage noxious/invasive weeds, remove and treat Russian olive, and treat salt cedar. Among their many education outreach efforts, they have supported production of a DVD, “River of Time—Wyoming’s Evolving North Platte River”. The DVD highlights the many diverse uses, including agriculture, of the North Platte’s water resources.”

Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel, Extension Community Vitality Specialist, received the 2015 National Excellence in Extension and Public Outreach award at the National Rural Sociological Society annual conference in Madison, Wis., recognizing her research and extension efforts that focused specifically in rural tourism development and new resident recruitment and retention.

Jessica Groskopf, Extension Educator Ag Economics, is a member of the Nebraska Extension Farm Bill Education Team that received the Omtvedt Innovation Extension Award. The enactment of the new Farm Bill contained in the Agricultural Act of 2014 required agricultural producers to incorporate new commodity-based income support payments and risk management practices into their operations and land investment decisions. The Farm Bill Education Team utilized a multi-platform approach to deliver research-based educational materials and decision aid tools.

Gary Hergert, retired Soil Nutrient and Management Specialist and Professor Emeritus, was named Honored Alumni during September during Ag Day at Colorado State University. The Honored Alumni Award was established in 2001 through the generosity of Wayne and Joyce Keim to recognize and honor outstanding graduates from the department. Recipients are selected based on the significant and diverse contributions that they have made to the field of agronomy. Gary joined the University of Nebraska in 1975 as a soil specialist at the West Central Research and Extension Center, where he also served as Associate Director (1995-1997) and District Director (beginning 1997) before returning to the academic ranks in 2004 and moving to the Panhandle Center. He served as Interim Director at PHREC during 2013 and 2014. He retired July 2015.

His research efforts have focused on soil and fertilizer management to improve crop production efficiency and profitability for major and minor crops in the High Plains.

–UNL Extension